BOOK 3: PSALM 74 OF 89 – THE DEFENDER OF THE FAITH

74 O God, why do you cast us off forever?
Why does your anger smoke against the sheep of your pasture?
Remember your congregation, which you have purchased of old,
which you have redeemed to be the tribe of your heritage!
Remember Mount Zion, where you have dwelt.
Direct your steps to the perpetual ruins;
    the enemy has destroyed everything in the sanctuary!

Your foes have roared in the midst of your meeting place;
they set up their own signs for signs.
They were like those who swing axes
in a forest of trees.[b]
And all its carved wood
they broke down with hatchets and hammers.
They set your sanctuary on fire;
they profaned the dwelling place of your name,
bringing it down to the ground.
They said to themselves, “We will utterly subdue them”;
they burned all the meeting places of God in the land.

We do not see our signs;
there is no longer any prophet,
    and there is none among us who knows how long.
10 How long, O God, is the foe to scoff?
Is the enemy to revile your name forever?
11 Why do you hold back your hand, your right hand?
Take it from the fold of your garment[c] and destroy them!

 

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12 Yet God my King is from of old,
working salvation in the midst of the earth.
13 You divided the sea by your might;
you broke the heads of the sea monsters[d] on the waters.
14 You crushed the heads of Leviathan;
you gave him as food for the creatures of the wilderness.
15 You split open springs and brooks;
you dried up ever-flowing streams.
16 Yours is the day, yours also the night;
you have established the heavenly lights and the sun.
17 You have fixed all the boundaries of the earth;
you have made summer and winter.

18 Remember this, O Lord, how the enemy scoffs,
    and a foolish people reviles your name.
19 Do not deliver the soul of your dove to the wild beasts;
do not forget the life of your poor forever.

20 Have regard for the covenant,
for the dark places of the land are full of the habitations of violence.
21 Let not the downtrodden turn back in shame;
let the poor and needy praise your name.

22 Arise, O God, defend your cause;
remember how the foolish scoff at you all the day!
23 Do not forget the clamor of your foes,
the uproar of those who rise against you, which goes up continually!

 

Psalm 74, like many of the psalms, begin with the despair of the psalmist.  This is a cry of a holy man against the world.  He is distraught by how God’s sanctuary is profaned; he is troubled by the fact that God’s signs are replaced with worldly signs; that God’s prophet is replaced by a worldly seer.  If we think that the Maskil of Asaph (simply meaning an instructive psalm by Asaph) sounds like it is a product of its time, stop and consider this: we are in a world which treats not God’s sanctuary with the same level of respect as the Temple or tabernacle had received.

As Spurgeon says:

“Alas, poor Israel! No Urim and Thummim blazed on the High Priest’s bosom, and no Shechaniah shone from between the cherubim. The smoke of sacrifice and cloud of incense no more arose from the holy hill; solemn feasts were suspended, and even circumcision, the covenant sign, was forbidden by the tyrant. We, too, as believers, know what it is to lose our evidences and grope in darkness; and too often do our churches also miss the tokens of the Redeemer’s presence, and their lamps remain untrimmed. Sad complaint of a people under a cloud! There is no more any prophet. Prophecy was suspended. No inspiring psalm or consoling promise fell from bard or seer. It is ill with the people of God when the voice of the preacher of the gospel fails, and a famine of the word of life falls on the people. God sent ministers are as needful to the saints as their daily bread, and it is a great sorrow when a congregation is destitute of a faithful pastor. It is to be feared, that with all the ministers now existing, there is yet a dearth of men whose hearts and tongues are touched with the celestial fire. Neither is there any among us that knoweth how long. If someone could foretell an end, the evil might be borne with a degree of patience, but when none can see a termination, or foretell an escape, the misery has a hopeless appearance, and is overwhelming. Blessed be God, he has not left his church in these days to be so deplorably destitute of cheering words; let us pray that he never may. Contempt of the word is very common, and may well provoke the Lord to withdraw it from us; may his long suffering endure the strain, and his mercy afford us still the word of life.”

The enemy strikes at the heart of our faith, because the enemy knows that the sanctuary is our place of refuge, our place of worship.  It is not different today: the debates that take place within the church, even amongst believers, demonstrate that the enemy’s plans are still very much in operation.  We profane his House when we do not even preach His Word faithfully; we fall to the evil one’s temptations when we cater to the desires and concerns of man, rather than faithfully bear witness to God’s plans this day.  On a daily basis, the church is being torn down – brick by brick; not physically, but spiritually.  Every day, our beliefs are being eroded by the worldly agenda; and Jesus becomes that much more distant and less real to us.  “Thus sayeth the LORD” is slowly, but surely, being replaced by “Thus sayeth the man” – the man whom the world respects, the philosopher who frequently denounces His Lordship, the teacher whose musings distract us from the truth, the scientist who forces on us evidence which purportedly support the theories which, apparently, contradict His Word.

 

However, at all times, Asaph does not lose sight of God’s absolute sovereignty.  The enemy creates this chaos only because God has allowed it.  The chapter opens not with a ‘woe-to-me’ expression in response to the enemy’s acts; rather, the chapter opens with O God, why do you cast us off forever?  Why do You, with a capital Y – indeed, it is the LORD who is doing the casting off, rather than the evil one.  Why does Your anger smoke against the sheep, against the congregation whom He has purchased of old (v2)?

Asaph recognizes that both blessing, and judgment, comes from the same God.  He is no Marcionist; he believes that God’s capacity, ability, and discernment in judging is tied to his act of loving; there is no schizophrenia, or dichotomy, between the God of the Old or New Testaments.  Jesus is as much the sacrificial lamb, as He is the one who returns to judge the world (see John 5:22-30, 9:39; 2 Corinthians 5:10;  Revelation 19:11).

This theme, and understanding, of sovereignty stretches through to the remainder of the chapter.  Starting from v12, Asaph pleads the creation argument; this God who has the power to allow evil to roam (a mystery which only He can unveil to us), is the same God who has been working salvation in the midst of the earth, from of old (v.12).  He divides (v.13), he crushes (v.14), he splits (v.15), he dries (v.15), he established (v.16), he fixed (v.17) – this is a God whose actions are never-ending.

Do we react to our troubles in the same way?  Do we resort to our own actions to defend our faith, defend our church, use a worldly form of apologetics and philosophy to ‘explain away’ Christianity to those who poke at our beliefs?  Or do we understand that we are dealing in the realm of spiritual warfare, waging a war that only spiritual tools can address (see 2 Corinthians 10:3-5)?

Ultimately, we must put our own faith, our sanctification, our livelihood, our very salvation in the hands of God.  We plead the covenant that He made with those whom he purchased (vv.2, 20), the covenant of blood sealed by Christ on the cross; for if He is for us, who can be against us?  In the words of Spurgeon:

“What a mighty plea is redemption. O God, canst thou see the blood mark on thine own sheep, and yet allow grievous wolves to devour them? The church is no new purchase of the Lord; from before the world’s foundation the chosen were regarded as redeemed by the Lamb slain; shall ancient love die out, and the eternal purpose become frustrate? The Lord would have his people remember the paschal Lamb, the bloodstained lintel, and the overthrow of Egypt; and will he forget all this himself? Let us put him in remembrance, let us plead together. Can he desert his blood bought and forsake his redeemed? Can election fail and eternal love cease to glow? Impossible. The woes of Calvary, and the covenant of which they are the seal, are the security of the saints.”

 

If only those who recognize and paint the blood of the lamb on their door are saved, then what will happen to the scoffers who remain so until their dying breath?  Time will tell, but the enemy who has been destroying our sanctuaries will, himself, not experience any sanctuary himself.   There is but only one defender of the faith, He who is sovereign above all, and has the authority to determine where we are born and where we go.

 

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BOOK 3: PSALM 74 OF 89 – THE DEFENDER OF THE FAITH

Book 3: Psalm 73 of 89 – In His Sanctuary

Psalm 73

73 Truly God is good to Israel,
to those who are pure in heart.
But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled,
    my steps had nearly slipped.
For I was envious of the arrogant
    when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.

For they have no pangs until death;
    their bodies are fat and sleek.
They are not in trouble as others are;
    they are not stricken like the rest of mankind.
Therefore pride is their necklace;
    violence covers them as a garment.
Their eyes swell out through fatness;
    their hearts overflow with follies.
They scoff and speak with malice;
    loftily they threaten oppression.
They set their mouths against the heavens,
    and their tongue struts through the earth.
10 Therefore his people turn back to them,
    and find no fault in them.[a]
11 And they say, “How can God know?
    Is there knowledge in the Most High?”
12 Behold, these are the wicked;
    always at ease, they increase in riches.
13 All in vain have I kept my heart clean
    and washed my hands in innocence.
14 For all the day long I have been stricken
    and rebuked every morning.
15 If I had said, “I will speak thus,”
    I would have betrayed the generation of your children.

16 But when I thought how to understand this,
    it seemed to me a wearisome task,
17 until I went into the sanctuary of God;
    then I discerned their end.

18 Truly you set them in slippery places;
    you make them fall to ruin.
19 How they are destroyed in a moment,
    swept away utterly by terrors!
20 Like a dream when one awakes,
    O Lord, when you rouse yourself, you despise them as phantoms.
21 When my soul was embittered,
    when I was pricked in heart,
22 I was brutish and ignorant;
    I was like a beast toward you.

23 Nevertheless, I am continually with you;
    you hold my right hand.
24 You guide me with your counsel,
    and afterward you will receive me to glory.
25 Whom have I in heaven but you?
    And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
26 My flesh and my heart may fail,
    but God is the strength[b] of my heart and my portion forever.

27 For behold, those who are far from you shall perish;
you put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you.
28 But for me it is good to be near God;
I have made the Lord God my refuge,
that I may tell of all your works.

 

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

These are not words which can be uttered overnight.  That is because the world around us is filled with lies that it can sustain itself outside of God.  After all, to justify its own existence, the world must continually preach the falsehood that it can build a city, a Tower of Babel, that can rival the heights of His throne (v.9).  To do that, it must present itself as beautiful; as desirable; as filled with abundance (vv.4, 7); as free from trouble (v.5); as growing in riches (v.12).

That is what the enemy does.  He tries to lure the world by attractive gems.  He is not so crude that he will just present these temptations in their naked form; he will present them as if they are goals, rewards, that we must work towards.  The religion of the world is that hard work will results in just deserts; and once we obtain them, we wear these achievements proudly, and arrogantly, as a badge of merit.  We exclude God’s intentions for our lives in these worldly pursuits.

Yet, the veil of the enemy’s lies can be torn in half, once we go before God Himself. Once we step into His sanctuary (v.17), and by the Spirit discern their end, we realize that the world has but covered itself in a skin of leaves, like Adam and Eve after the fall.  These achievements, these growing riches, the sleek fat bodies which they possess, are all emblematic of the skin of pathetic leaves to cover their own naked shame.  What is more, is that Godis the one who arranged it so; that these apparent blessings of the world are, in fact, the curse by which they are doomed to hell.  As Spurgeon eloquently put it:

Verse 17. Until I went into the sanctuary of God. His mind entered the eternity where God dwells as in a holy place, he left the things of sense for the things invisible, his heart gazed within the veil, he stood where the thrice holy God stands. Thus he shifted his point of view, and apparent disorder resolved itself into harmony. The motions of the planets appear most discordant from this world which is itself a planet; they appear as “progressive, retrograde, and standing still; “but could we fix our observatory in the sun, which is the centre of the system, we should perceive all the planets moving in perfect circle around the head of the great solar family. Then understood I their end. He had seen too little to be able to judge; a wider view changed his judgment; he saw with his mind’s enlightened eye the future of the wicked, and his soul was in debate no longer as to the happiness of their condition. No envy gnaws now at his heart, but a holy horror both of their impending doom, and of their present guilt, fills his soul. He recoils from being dealt with in the same manner as the proud sinners, whom just now he regarded with admiration.

Verse 18. The Psalmist’s sorrow had culminated, not in the fact that the ungodly prospered, but that God had arranged it so: had it happened by mere chance, he would have wondered, but could not have complained; but how the arranger of all things could so dispense his temporal favours, was the vexatious question. Here, to meet the case, he sees that the divine hand purposely placed these men in prosperous and eminent circumstances, not with the intent to bless them but the very reverse.Surely thou didst set them in slippery places. Their position was dangerous, and, therefore, God did not set his friends there but his foes alone. He chose, in infinite love, a rougher but safer standing for his own beloved. Thou castedst them down into destruction. The same hand which led them up to their Tarpeian rock, hurled them down from it. They were but elevated by judicial arrangement for the fuller execution of their doom. Eternal punishment will be all the more terrible in contrast with the former prosperity of those who are ripening for it. Taken as a whole, the case of the ungodly is horrible throughout; and their worldly joy instead of diminishing the horror, actually renders the effect the more awful, even as the vivid lightning amid the storm does not brighten but intensify the thick darkness which lowers around. The ascent to the fatal gallows of Haman was an essential ingredient in the terror of the sentence—”hang him thereon.” If the wicked had not been raised so high they could not have fallen so low.

Imagine an empty man, like Asaph, who admits openly that he has stumbled (v2); that he envies the prosperity of the wicked (v3); who feels that he has vainly kept his heart clean and washed his hands in innocence (v13); who is weary (v.16), then even more reason that he would want to fill up his cistern with the riches of the world.

Imagine then, the mind-blowing truth of the situation once Asaph has received the wisdom and insight of the Holy Spirit: that these blessings are designed by God to be a slippery path.  That God has given these people over to their sins; and the result is the apparent blessing; the result is like Haman, preparing his own gallows, as if for Mordecai, but only to find out that the gallows are for himself.  Like the enemy who thought that he is climbing a mountain to heights above God, who is actually struck down as quickly as lightning strikes the earth (Luke 10:18).

And so, the people of this world have committed two evils: they have forsaken God, the fountain of living water; and they have dug cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that cannot hold water (Jeremiah 2:12-13).  With eyes that see and ears that hear (Proverbs 20:12; Isaiah 6:10), as we go before God in His sanctuary, we begin to see with insight and discernment (vv.16-17) the end of the people of the world.  Those who reject and refuse God are set by Himin slippery places (v.18); Godis the one who makes them fall to ruin. In a moment, they are destroyed.

Can we adopt the same response as the psalmist?  Can we say to God, “Whom have I in heaven but you?  And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.  My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength/rock of my heart and my portion forever”?  By remaining in God’s sanctuary, by being close to Him, by being in His presence, we see that our true end is to be received by Him to glory (v 24).  But those who are far away from Him shall perish, and God(not the enemy) is the one who puts an end to everyone who is unfaithful to Him (v.27).  The psalmist clarifies that the enemy can do nothing of his own accord; it is only through God’s permission that anything is done (c.f. Job 1:7).

How fitting it is for the third book of the Psalms to open with this chapter.  Indeed, the religion of the world, the works and rewards which people clothe themselves with, are exactly what God is guarding against in the book of Leviticus (i.e. being, in parallel, the third book of Moses in the Pentateuch).  Imagine the Pharisees, working hard to comply with every single law, and adorning their pride in their own abilities, like necklaces around their necks.

God would respond in very much the same way as He does with the people of the world: those who view the law as the means of their salvation are set by Him in slippery places, and they will fall to ruin.  It is those who recognize their own weaknesses, like Asaph, who go before God for wisdom.  It takes a humbled person, an envious person, a person who delights not in his own abilities and treasures, to step into God’s sanctuary, only to be clothed by God with beautiful animal skin instead of the pathetic leaves and scraps of this world.  Just like the Levites who carefully, but confidently, approaches God in the book of Leviticus; so also let us – the priests of the era after the Spirit was given to all – approach the throne of grace with similar confidence:

16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” – Hebrews 4:16

Book 3: Psalm 73 of 89 – In His Sanctuary

2 Chronicles 7-9: Golden Age of Israel

Chapter 7

In response to Solomon’s understanding of the gospel as to why and how the LORD’s steadfast love endures forever, the kindling fire of the LORD fills the Temple in v.1-3.  The manifold offerings were accepted (v.4-6), the offering overflowing into the middle of the court before the Temple because the bronze altar was not sufficient!  This is a beautiful time of worship, the type of overflowing love which the Father gives to us through His Son, hence the celebration of the Feast of Booths here between the 15th to the 22nd of the seventh month as described in Leviticus 23:

“33  And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 34  “Speak to the people of Israel, saying, On the fifteenth day of this seventh month and for seven days is the Feast of Booths to the LORD. 35  On the first day shall be a holy convocation; you shall not do any ordinary work. 36  For seven days you shall present food offerings to the LORD. On the eighth day you shall hold a holy convocation and present a food offering to the LORD. It is a solemn assembly; you shall not do any ordinary work.”  As I have explained here, the Feast of Booths is a feast which reminds us of Hebrews 11:8-10, of Abraham looking forward to the day of meeting the God the Father face to face, starting and ending the festivities with rest, foreshadowing the eternal Sabbath of New Creation.  With this “rest” in mind, Solomon sends the people away to their homes, joyful and glad of heart (v.10) because of the LORD blessing the Israelites through David and Solomon, symbolic of his actual blessing through his only begotten Son Jesus.

Jesus then appears to Solomon in the evening (v.12), He responds verbally to Solomon’s pleading in chapter 6, essentially stating that He has chosen and consecrated the Temple that His name may be there forever, His eyes and His heart there for all time (v.16).  Yet, again, v.17-22 is a reminder of the demise of Israel as the kings failed to walk with Christ – failing to receive the wisdom, the Spirit, whom Solomon asked for after he was anointed a second time as king.  Yet, the caveat is still v.36-39 in chapter 6 – that even if Israel does become a proverb and a byword among all peoples (v.20-22), a reminder of those who forsake the LORD, He will still forgive so long as Christ is their King – for His steadfast love endures forever.

Chapter 8

Now we turn to the daily life of the Israelite – and here we see Solomon assigning forced labour tasks to the Gentiles, the once-enemies of Israel; rather than destroying them, he extends his hand gracefully to keep them in the land although as bondservants of Solomon.  Contrarily, the Israelite enjoys other positions of work (v.9), a sign again of the “work” in new creation.  This “work” should be placed in the context of the various ministries and delegations in 1 Chronicles 27-29 under the ruling of David (v.14) – and the three annual feasts as described throughout Leviticus as reminders of the Trinity, from the Son (the Passover), to the Spirit (the Pentecost), and to the Father (Sukkot).

Here there is a seemingly strange interjection of Solomon’s visit to Ezion-geber and Eloth in the land of Edom, and together with Hiram, going to Ophir to obtain 450 talents of gold.  Matthew Henry observes it thus:

“He did himself in person visit the sea-port towns of Eloth and Ezion-geber; for those that deal much in the world will find it their interest, as far as they can, to inspect their affairs themselves and to see with their own eyes, Canaan was a rich country, and yet must send to Ophir for gold; the Israelites were a wise and understanding people, and yet must be beholden to the king of Tyre for men that had knowledge of the seas. Yet Canaan was God’s peculiar land, and Israel God’s peculiar people. This teaches us that grace, and not gold, is the best riches, and acquaintance with God and his law, not with arts and sciences, the best knowledge.”

It is indeed true that the Temple is already filled with gold, to convey the majesty of the LORD’s presence through Israel; yet Israel is not rich with gold itself but with other natural resources (Numbers 13:27).  Israel is therefore not a “self-sufficient” nation, but a nation which requires inheritance of resources from neighbouring nations, but not by becoming their allies or assimilating their practices (Deuteronomy 18) – but by preaching the gospel to them (Matthew 5:5) and teaching all to be meek before the LORD.  This is adequately expressed in chapter 9, with the Queen of Sheba’s visit (carrying spices and gold) immediately juxtaposed to Solomon’s expeditions for these resources.  One can presume that Solomon’s dedication to the LORD in the previous chapters, and his voyages to Ezion-geber, Eloth and Ophir have created the impression of a priest-king-evangelist, missional in his outlook and ensuring that other nations are, too, blessed by the gospel.

Chapter 9

See my commentary on the Queen of Sheba’s visit here.  Her contribution to Israel is described to have coincided with Hiram’s contribution – both bringing gold – one from Sheba, the other from Ophir (v.10) and rare elements for the Temple, Solomon’s house, and lyres and harps for the singers.

However, this is but the beginning of the famed “Golden Age” of Israel – and quite literally so.  From v.13-28, we see a variety of gold and silver brought in from explorers, merchants, from the kings of Arabia and governors of the land – used for shields (v.14-16), for overlaying a great ivory throne (v.17-18), for the king’s drinking vessels (v.20) – and the resources kept coming (v.21; making silver as common as stone v.27).  This grand depiction of the LORD’s material and spiritual blessing is summed in v.22-23 – “Thus King Solomon excelled all the kings of the earth in riches and in wisdom.  And all the kings of the earth sought the presence of Solomon to hear his wisdom, which God had put into his mind“.  They came not to receive items from Solomon – but simply to learn of the LORD’s wisdom!  Such was the glorious kingdom under the headship of a king who followed, sought, and met with Christ.  Never was the gospel so gloriously communicated in Israel, not until the time of Christ’s first coming.

2 Chronicles 7-9: Golden Age of Israel

1 Chronicles 27-29: King to all the Kingdoms of the Countries

Chapter 27:  The Sinful Census and Church Ministries in Israel

Given the LORD’s expression to David that His reason for electing Solomon to build the temple is due to David’s hands being stained with blood and riddled with war (re-iterated in 1 Chronicles 28:3), it is unsurprising that the narrator of 1 Chronicles has explicitly focused on the priesthood aspect of this elected nation.  The “military divisions” is the final allotment to be described in this book, indicating that though this is important, the priestly aspect is far more significant.

In chapter 27, we see the 12 military divisions (from v.1-15), each numbering 24,000 – amounting to 288,000 – an impressive number, though significantly less than the number taken from the census in chapter 21.  The 12 leaders as follows:

1.  Jashobeam (of Perez), chief of all the commanders – the 1st month;

2.  Dodai the Ahohite – the 2nd month;

3.  Benaiah, son of Jehoiada the chief priest (a mighty man of the thirty, commanding the thirty), and his son Ammizabad in charge of his division – the 3rd month;

4.  Asahel (brother of Joab) and his son Zebadiah after him – the 4th month;

5.  Shamhuth the Izrahite – the 5th month;

6.  Ira, the Tekoite – the 6th month;

7.  Helez, of Ephraim – the 7th month;

8.  Sibbecai of the Zerahites – the 8th month;

9.  Abiezer of Benjamin – the 9th month;

10.  Maharai of the Zerahites – the 10th month;

11.  Benaiah of Ephraim – the 11th month;

12.  Heldai the Netophathite, of Othniel – the 12th month.

This is followed by the allocations for the leaders of the tribes from v.16-22:

1.  Eliezer – over Reuben (as chief officer);

2.  Shephatiah – over Simeon;

3.  Hashabiah – over Levi;

4.  Zadok – over Aaron;

5.  Elihu (one of David’s brother) – over Judah;

6.  Omri – over Issachar;

7.  Ishmaiah – over Zebulun;

8.  Jeremoth – over Naphtali;

9.  Hoshea – over Ephraim;

10.  Joel – over half-tribe of Manasseh;

11.  Iddo – over half-tribe of Manasseh in Gilead;

12.  Jaasiel (son of Abner) – over Benjamin

13.  Azarel – over Dan.

Just as the descendants of Abraham are meant to be as numerous as the stars of heaven (Genesis 15:5).  Abraham was challenged by the LORD then that his descendants shall be of such number, if such can be counted.  David was therefore presumptuous to merely refrain from counting those below 20 years of age, when he should not have needed to count at all.  Joab’s futility in counting, alongside his disgust at David’s arrogance as tempted by Satan, is met with the LORD’s wrath – as if David is the man who should be given glory for Israel’s multiplication.  Rightfully so, the number was not (nor could it have been!) entered into King David’s chronicles (v.24).

Then, the descriptions of the stewards of King David’s property (v.25-31):

1.  Azmaveth – over the king’s treasuries;

2.  Jonathan son of Uzziah – over the treasuries in the country, the cities, villages and in the towers;

3.  Ezri – over those who did the work of the field for tilling the soil;

4.  Shimei the Ramathite – over the vineyards;

5.  Zabdi the Shiphmite – over the produce of the vineyards for the wine cellars;

6.  Baal-hanan the Gederite – over the olive and sycamore trees in Shephelah;

7.  Joash – over the stores of oil;

8.  Shitrai the Sharonite – over the herds that pastured in Sharon;

9.  Shaphat the son of Adlai – over the herds in the valleys;

10.  Obil the Ishmaelite – over the camels;

11.  Jehdeiah the Meronothite – over the donkeys;

12.  Jaziz the Hagrite – over the flocks.

Finally, the miscellaneous allocations:

1.  Jonathan (David’s uncle) and Jehiel – attending the king’s sons;

2.  Ahithophel (succeeded by Jehoiada the son of Benaiah, and Abiathar) – the king’s counselor;

3.  Hushai the Archite – the king’s friend; and

4.  Joab – commander of the king’s army.

Upon the various allocations from chapters 23-27, David assembled at Jerusalem all the officials of Israel, of the tribes, and of the divisions, and the commanders, the stewards of the king’s property / livestock / sons, the palace officials, and the mighty men / seasoned warriors.  And this gathering draws us back to chapter 22, the promise of the temple to be built by the true Solomon.

Chapter 28:  Israel’s Foremost Duty

This chapter is very much a reiteration of the purpose of the nation Israel (Exodus 19:6) – that it is a priesthood to the other nations.  It was never an imitation of its neighbours, nor did it seek to be a kingdom on earth; rather, it is an imitation of one neighbour – the kingdom of heaven.  However, it should also remember that it is but an imitation of the heavenly kingdom, at most an incarnation of the taste of new creation.  Yet, it should be remembered as a shadow to the New Jerusalem.  In v.1-8 of this chapter, David provides a short autobiography to the assembled people (a summary of the content from 1 Samuel onwards regarding David), with the LORD’s command to David in 1 Chronicles 22 being the core message of this assembly (v.2-3), that Solomon is David’s promised son and future king of Israel (reflecting what had been stated in 1 Kings 1:30 and the establishment of Solomon’s headship in 1 Kings 2:12).

This is followed by Solomon’s duty, proclaimed from David to Solomon before the assembled men of Israel, commanding Solomon to seek after the LORD truly to best resemble the relationship between the Holy Father and the Holy Son.  However much a type of Christ Solomon is, he is still but a follower of Jesus, and prone to the type of apostasy described in Hebrews 6:4-6 (v.9 – “If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will cast you off forever“).  This is in contrast to the LORD’s persisting love (v.20 – “Be strong and courageous and do it [the building and service of the temple].  Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed, for the LORD God, even my God, is with you.  He will not leave you or forsake you, until all the work for the service of the house of the LORD is finished“).  This is a defining moment for Solomon and his predestined role in life as the very first priest-king of Israel, just as Christ was both Melchizedek and High Priest of all men.

It is interesting how David in v.11-19 provides the plans and the blueprint of the temple to Solomon, when the LORD could have provided such plans and blueprint to Solomon directly (c.f. the detailed blueprint of the tabernacle provided to Moses directly – Hebrews 8:5).  However, David’s speech to Solomon is itself a glimpse of the relationship between the Holy Father and the Son before Genesis 1:1 – the Father planning and mapping the salvation of mankind, and the Son being the executor of such plan as the chosen heir to the Father’s throne (Matthew 25:31; Revelation 22:3).

Chapter 29:  Worshipful Response

After David’s wonderful speech in chapter 28 to Israel, and his command to Solomon as heard by the assembled people, he poses this question to the crowd – “Who then will offer willingly, consecrating himself today to the LORD?” (v.5).  This evoked a sensational freewill offering from the leaders of fathers’ houses, leaders of the tribes, the commanders of thousands and of hundreds, and the officers over the king’s work.  This resembles the awesome freewill offering provided in the building of the tabernacle (Exodus 35-36) – and “the people rejoiced because they had given willingly, for with a whole heart they had offered freely to the LORD” (emphasis included).  Such is the essence of Christian worship, that we give freely as bondservants of Christ and not with hands tied to our guilt and shame in bondage to the father of liars!

David goes further to prevent any Israelite to boast in their giving (v.14).  For all things come from the LORD, and of His own we have given Him.  Truly, what “glory” could we possibly give to the LORD except that which is already His?  Even the gift of faith is not a work in itself, for the circumcised heart also comes from the LORD (v.19).  This beautiful assembly surrounding the theme of the Temple and Solomon’s exaltation was not recorded in 1 Kings, an indication again at priestly as opposed to the deuteronomist source of Chronicles.  Hence, Solomon’s anointing to be the king of Israel and prince for the LORD is very different from the opening verses of 1 Kings 2 (and certainly does not seem to be the same as the first anointing described in 1 Kings 1:39), which does not specify whether Solomon was made king a “second” time.  The narration in Chronicles places his reign in a better context, the context of the covenant promise the LORD has made with Israel from the day of the exodus from Egypt, and provides a fitting background as to why Solomon and David, of all the other kings after them, are the most obvious types of Christ in Israel’s history.  They are not only kings of Israel, examples of Christ to Israelites, but the books of Chronicles considered also the circumstances of all the kingdoms of the countries – a reminder of the wide-reaching implications of salvation through Israel and the promised Messiah especially in these Old Testament pages.

 

1 Chronicles 27-29: King to all the Kingdoms of the Countries

1 Chronicles 8-11: The City of Jesus

1 Chronicles 8 begins with the genealogy of Saul with some notable Christians such as Jonathan and Merib-baal (Mephibosheth, the “contender against Baal”, he who was exalted by David in 2 Samuel 21:7).  It is interesting that v.29-40 are repeated in chapter 9, as if to emphasise the mighty descendants of Benjamin, the son of Jacob.  Yet, it is in the prophecy and in their names that we realise the promise of the Seed will not be fufilled through Benjamin.  This “ravenous wolf” who in the morning is devouring its prey, and in the evening dividing the spoil (c.f. Genesis 49:27) is but the proper presupposition with which we see Saul’s lineage.  His genealogy focuses not on Jonathan or Mephibosheth, the significant characters which seemingly redeems Saul’s posterity; rather, it ends with “the sons of Eshek” – which is means the sons of “oppression“.  Ulam, Eshek’s firstborn, being both “their strength“, yet also “their folly“.  These were indeed mighty warriors of Benjamin, having many sons and grandsons – emphasising once again from which son of Israel they descend in v.40.

Yet, almost immediately, we are shown the genealogy of the returned exiles.  From the glory of Saul’s days, his warriors which seem to be his lineage’s stronghold, the focus is not on the returned Benjaminites.  Rather, the focus is firstly the priests, the Levites, and the temple servants (1 Chronicles 9:2).  The meaning of the name of the chief of the gatekeepers, Shallum, is in contrast to Eshek or Ulam.  Where Shallum means retribution or a restoration of sorts, Eshek and Ulam are both folly and oppression – explaining why the Spirit does not inspire the narrator of 1 Chronicles 9 to focus any longer on the folly of Saul’s bloodline, the spirit of whom was followed continuously by the rebellious kings of Israel.  Rather, the Levitical focus of Chronicles reminds us of the importance of the Priesthood and the chosen tribe Levi – such as the Korahites (c.f. Numbers 26:58; 2 Chronicles 20:19 – musicians of the Lord).  Their work of service, their fathers being “in charge of the camp of the LORD” (v.19), their “duty of watching” (v.27) – all summed up in David and Samuel’s joint election (v.22).  Note once again that such genealogies were not elected by Saul – but by the prophet and the first king after the LORD’s own heart, the man who modelled his life after the Second LORD of his worship (c.f. Psalm 110; Matthew 22:45).  So also the work of the kinsmen of Kohathites (who had been the focus of Numbers chapter 4 in their service of the tabernacle), are brought to the fore.  It is not until a full exposition of the glory of the LORD’s restoration of Israel through the priesthood that the narrator seems to strangely return to Saul’s genealogy.  Yet, the purpose is apparent in comparing the genealogy in 1 Chronicles 9:35-44 with 1 Chronicles 8:29-40.  Verses 39 and 40 are removed from chapter 9:35-44 – no longer does the narrator focus on Eshek or Ulam or even the warriors or bowmen of Benjamin, for these things are useless in the face of restoring Israel after its captivity in Assyria / Babylon.

The folly of Saul’s lineage is made even more apparent in chapter 10, which opens with the death of Saul and his sons, and Saul’s plan to preserve his ego and reputation by falling upon his own sword rather than being overwhelmed by the Philistines.  Saul is accordingly diminished, whilst David, Samuel and the Levites are appropriately exalted.  The author of Chronicles is clearly intent on remembering the Lord as the Author of Israel’s life, and Refiner of Israel’s rebellion.  Chapter 10 therefore ends with “So Saul died for his breach of faith.  He broke faith with the LORD in that he did not keep the command of the LORD, and also consulted a medium, seeking guidance.  He did not seek guidance from the LORD.  Therefore the LORD put him to death and turned the kingdom over to David the son of Jesse” (v.13-14).  Instead of seeking guidance from a medium, he should have sought after the Mediator; instead of satiating his lust of self-preservation, he should have satiated his need to be preserved by Christ in the Father’s wrath.

Thus, as we turn to chapter 11, we come to understand why Jerusalem is not the city of Israel; nor is it the city of Saul.  For the true character of this city was not defined by the physical first king, nor from Israel, but from the LORD of the kings and the LORD of the nation.  David embodies the character of Jesus in taking over Jerusalem, the once city of the Jebusites, with the support of Israel declaring herself as David’s “bone and flesh“, reminiscent of the relationship between Christ and the Church in Genesis 2:23 and Ephesians 5:22-33.  Just as Israel submits herself to her king David, so also David’s victory came from seeking the Mediator’s guidance contrary to Saul’s actions – and of all the notable events of David’s life (such as his slaying of Goliath), the narrator opted to focus on the renaming of Jerusalem as the city of David (v.4-9), for this city is essentially not David’s city, but the city of the One Whom David’s worshipped – the city of Jesus.

For David to become such a great man in the LORD (v.9), it was befitting that he was supported too by mighty men as described in the remainder of chapter 11.  The emphasis, however, is not on how mighty they were; contrarily, their efforts cannot hold a candle to David’s sacrifice (c.f. v.18-19).  For it is David’s lifeblood which gives these men their life, not vice versa – “”…Shall I drink the lifeblood of these men?  For at the risk of their lives they brought it.”  Therefore he would not drink it.”  Indeed, the only cup that Christ shall drink is the cup of the Father’s wrath, pouring out His lifeblood for the mighty men.  Although the followers of Christ are co-heirs and perhaps mighty kings and mighty men, their exaltation comes from the humbleness of the One who poured His lifeblood out to us, so that we may drink of His blood and feast on His flesh (Matthew 20:28).  It is in this light that we are to read about the lives of such mighty men, their might hinging on the One whose might is in His weakness; whose might does not lie in men’s sacrifice, but in His sacrifice for us first.

1 Chronicles 8-11: The City of Jesus

2 Kings 11-12: Jehoiada, bearing the reproach of Christ

II Kings 11:

1 Now when Athaliah the mother of Ahaziah saw that her son was dead, she arose and destroyed all the royal family.

2 But Jehosheba, the daughter of King Joram, sister of Ahaziah, took Joash the son of Ahaziah and stole him away from among the king’s sons who were being put to death, and she put him and his nurse in a bedroom. Thus they hid him from Athaliah, so that he was not put to death.

3 And he remained with her six years, hidden in the house of the LORD, while Athaliah reigned over the land.

The whore of Babylon, however, has not yet been destroyed – for the end of days has not yet come. Until then, the bloodline of Satan shall continue to wreck havoc on the promised nation, this time through Athaliah, the type of the enemy.  This is the woman “whom God afflicts”, for she causes the death of the royal family for her own gain.  Even Joash, her grandson “whom Jehovah bestowed”, would not have escaped such brutal murder.  This scene is reminiscent of the hiding of Moses, and the hiding of Jesus – to ensure that the line of Israel is not destroyed (c.f. Exodus 2; Matthew 2).  Six years he spent in the house of the LORD, until the tutelage of priest Jehoiada (“Jehovah known”), growing in the faith as Athaliah sought to destroy all the royal seed (the literal Hebrew of the ESV’s adoption of “family”), destroying the possible fulfillment of Genesis 3:15.

4 But in the seventh year Jehoiada sent and brought the captains of the Carites and of the guards, and had them come to him in the house of the LORD. And he made a covenant with them and put them under oath in the house of the LORD, and he showed them the king’s son.

5 And he commanded them, “This is the thing that you shall do: one third of you, those who come off duty on the Sabbath and guard the king’s house

6 (another third being at the gate Sur and a third at the gate behind the guards) shall guard the palace.

7 And the two divisions of you, which come on duty in force on the Sabbath and guard the house of the LORD on behalf of the king,

8 shall surround the king, each with his weapons in his hand. And whoever approaches the ranks is to be put to death. Be with the king when he goes out and when he comes in.”

9 The captains did according to all that Jehoiada the priest commanded, and they each brought his men who were to go off duty on the Sabbath, with those who were to come on duty on the Sabbath, and came to Jehoiada the priest.

10 And the priest gave to the captains the spears and shields that had been King David’s, which were in the house of the LORD.

11 And the guards stood, every man with his weapons in his hand, from the south side of the house to the north side of the house, around the altar and the house on behalf of the king.

12 Then he brought out the king’s son and put the crown on him and gave him the testimony. And they proclaimed him king and anointed him, and they clapped their hands and said, “Long live the king!”

Are v.4-12 not a picture of the Old Testament?  (c.f. 1 Peter 1) The picture of Israelites, under oath in the house of the LORD to protect and safeguard the king’s son until the day of his crowning?  Some may not see his crowning, yet they long for the day when Athaliah is destroyed and the true King is crowned (Hebrews 11:13).  The object of faith has not changed – it has always been the true king Joash, as directed by Jehoiada who faithfully keeps this one royal seed of Adam and Eve and of Israel from perishing.

13 When Athaliah heard the noise of the guard and of the people, she went into the house of the LORD to the people.

14 And when she looked, there was the king standing by the pillar, according to the custom, and the captains and the trumpeters beside the king, and all the people of the land rejoicing and blowing trumpets. And Athaliah tore her clothes and cried, “Treason! Treason!”

15 Then Jehoiada the priest commanded the captains who were set over the army, “Bring her out between the ranks, and put to death with the sword anyone who follows her.” For the priest said, “Let her not be put to death in the house of the LORD.”

16 So they laid hands on her; and she went through the horses’ entrance to the king’s house, and there she was put to death.

17 And Jehoiada made a covenant between the LORD and the king and people, that they should be the LORD’s people, and also between the king and the people.

18 Then all the people of the land went to the house of Baal and tore it down; his altars and his images they broke in pieces, and they killed Mattan the priest of Baal before the altars. And the priest posted watchmen over the house of the LORD.

19 And he took the captains, the Carites, the guards, and all the people of the land, and they brought the king down from the house of the LORD, marching through the gate of the guards to the king’s house. And he took his seat on the throne of the kings.

20 So all the people of the land rejoiced, and the city was quiet after Athaliah had been put to death with the sword at the king’s house.

21  Jehoash was seven years old when he began to reign.

Such a fundamental picture of Satan destroyed according to his folly and arrogance.  Though he too may shout “Treason! Treason!”, he has no justification to do so.  He wants to be God (Ezekiel 28:9), such that Athaliah’s charisma and beauty was struck down by the innocence and incomparable authority of the young king Joash.  She shall be destroyed outside of the house of the LORD (v.15) and thrown into the pit, outside of the fellowship of believers.  It is on this Sabbath day of rest that the coronation of the king is achieved; and that the house of Baal is simultaneously destroyed with the priest of Baal permanently removed.  So the ascension of Joash as king is completed in a matter of one appointed day (Hebrews 5), the fullness of time when Christ too shall return to destroy the house of Babylon and be revealed as the King of kings despite other falsities such as Athalia as the interim king / ruler.  And this judgment shall begin at the house of God (1 Peter 4:17).

II Kings 12:

1 In the seventh year of Jehu, Jehoash began to reign, and he reigned forty years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Zibiah of Beersheba.

2 And Jehoash did what was right in the eyes of the LORD all his days, because Jehoiada the priest instructed him.

3 Nevertheless, the high places were not taken away; the people continued to sacrifice and make offerings on the high places.

4 Jehoash said to the priests, “All the money of the holy things that is brought into the house of the LORD, the money for which each man is assessed—the money from the assessment of persons—and the money that a man’s heart prompts him to bring into the house of the LORD,

5 let the priests take, each from his donor, and let them repair the house wherever any need of repairs is discovered.”

6 But by the twenty-third year of King Jehoash, the priests had made no repairs on the house.

7 Therefore King Jehoash summoned Jehoiada the priest and the other priests and said to them, “Why are you not repairing the house? Now therefore take no more money from your donors, but hand it over for the repair of the house.”

8 So the priests agreed that they should take no more money from the people, and that they should not repair the house.

9 Then Jehoiada the priest took a chest and bored a hole in the lid of it and set it beside the altar on the right side as one entered the house of the LORD. And the priests who guarded the threshold put in it all the money that was brought into the house of the LORD.

10 And whenever they saw that there was much money in the chest, the king’s secretary and the high priest came up and they bagged and counted the money that was found in the house of the LORD.

11 Then they would give the money that was weighed out into the hands of the workmen who had the oversight of the house of the LORD. And they paid it out to the carpenters and the builders who worked on the house of the LORD,

12 and to the masons and the stonecutters, as well as to buy timber and quarried stone for making repairs on the house of the LORD, and for any outlay for the repairs of the house.

13 But there were not made for the house of the LORD basins of silver, snuffers, bowls, trumpets, or any vessels of gold, or of silver, from the money that was brought into the house of the LORD,

14 for that was given to the workmen who were repairing the house of the LORD with it.

15 And they did not ask an accounting from the men into whose hand they delivered the money to pay out to the workmen, for they dealt honestly.

16 The money from the guilt offerings and the money from the sin offerings was not brought into the house of the LORD; it belonged to the priests.

The activities of v.1-16 is but a picture of Nehemiah’s building up of the temple after the Babylonian captivity.  However, the hearts of men were still faulty.  Joash reveals the state of man’s heart in v. 4-5, that “All the money of the holy things that is brought into the house of the LORD, the money for which each man is assessed—the money from the assessment of persons—and the money that a man’s heart prompts him to bring into the house of the LORD,

let the priests take, each from his donor, and let them repair the house wherever any need of repairs is discovered”.  The money was a free-will offering to repair the house of the LORD, and Joash’s focus was on ensuring that this house of worship would be the focal point of Israel rather than the high places.  Such is the marked difference between the leadership of one who walks with Jesus under the guidance of a priest of God, compared to the leadership of one who walks by the flesh, heeding poor counsel.  However, the decay of the house of the LORD is an apparent departure from Solomon’s day.  V.13 – there were not made for the house of the LORD basins of silver, snuffers, bowls, trumpets, or any vessels of gold, or of silver.  All went simply to repair.  This is not the golden city of Jerusalem of Revelation 21-22.  Joash is but repairing a shadow, the importance of which has been increasingly neglected by the people of Israel – even Joash himself.  Note the invasion by the Syrians:

17 At that time Hazael king of Syria went up and fought against Gath and took it. But when Hazael set his face to go up against Jerusalem,

18 Jehoash king of Judah took all the sacred gifts that Jehoshaphat and Jehoram and Ahaziah his fathers, the kings of Judah, had dedicated, and his own sacred gifts, and all the gold that was found in the treasuries of the house of the LORD and of the king’s house, and sent these to Hazael king of Syria. Then Hazael went away from Jerusalem.

Instead of lifting up the invasion to God, we see instead Joash gifting items in the house of the LORD to the Syrians.  This act may seem strange independent of his other account in 2 Chronicles 24, which reveals that Jehoiada was the one ensuring Joash was following Jesus:

““15 But Jehoiada grew old and full of days, and died. He was 130 years old at his death.

16 And they buried him in the city of David among the kings, because he had done good in Israel, and toward God and his house.

17 Now after the death of Jehoiada the princes of Judah came and paid homage to the king. Then the king listened to them.

18 And they abandoned the house of the LORD, the God of their fathers, and served the Asherim and the idols. And wrath came upon Judah and Jerusalem for this guilt of theirs.

19 Yet he sent prophets among them to bring them back to the LORD. These testified against them, but they would not pay attention.

20 Then the Spirit of God clothed Zechariah the son of Jehoiada the priest, and he stood above the people, and said to them, “Thus says God, ‘Why do you break the commandments of the LORD, so that you cannot prosper? Because you have forsaken the LORD, he has forsaken you.’”

21 But they conspired against him, and by command of the king they stoned him with stones in the court of the house of the LORD.

22 Thus Joash the king did not remember the kindness that Jehoiada, Zechariah’s father, had shown him, but killed his son. And when he was dying, he said, “May the LORD see and avenge!””

 

Instead, the king began to listen to the princes of Judah, and they “abandoned the house of the LORD” and served the Asherim and the idols.  Joash, too, abandoned the house – and thus wrath came upon Judah and Jerusalem, explaining the invasion of the Syrians.  Instead, these are the rest of the acts of Joash described in the following v.19, and so the plan against Joash in the opening of 2 Kings 11 was materialized in the end of his life.  Joash, unfortunately, was not the promised Seed who would rebuild the house of God and Israel, although his life was modeled as such by Jehoiada and Zechariah, the true worshippers of Jesus Christ.  Instead, Joash dies a gruesome death, fitting to that of a king without God.

19 Now the rest of the acts of Joash and all that he did, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah?

20 His servants arose and made a conspiracy and struck down Joash in the house of Millo, on the way that goes down to Silla.

21 It was Jozacar the son of Shimeath and Jehozabad the son of Shomer, his servants, who struck him down, so that he died. And they buried him with his fathers in the city of David, and Amaziah his son reigned in his place.

2 Kings 11-12: Jehoiada, bearing the reproach of Christ

2 Kings 1-2: Christ and His disciple

II Kings 1:

1 After the death of Ahab, Moab rebelled against Israel.

 

2 Now Ahaziah fell through the lattice in his upper chamber in Samaria, and lay sick; so he sent messengers, telling them, “Go, inquire of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron, whether I shall recover from this sickness.”

3 But the angel of the LORD said to Elijah the Tishbite, “Arise, go up to meet the messengers of the king of Samaria, and say to them, ‘Is it because there is no God in Israel that you are going to inquire of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron?

4 Now therefore thus says the LORD, You shall not come down from the bed to which you have gone up, but you shall surely die.’” So Elijah went.

 

The opening of 2 Kings is a stauch reminder of the king’s duties in ensuring the peace with neighbouring countries.  Under the reign of David and Solomon, Israel was reaching a golden era of peace.  However, under Ahab’s rule, his house was cursed like that of Jeroboam and Baasha.  Upon his death, the incestuous sister country Moab (c.f. Genesis 19) decides to rebel against Israel (v.1) – undoubtedly reminding us that the king has been unfaithful to the LORD, and the very fact of Moab’s rebellion is a pretext for Ahaziah’s curse in this chapter.

 

Ahaziah is much like his father’s image – but where Ahab acknowledged the LORD and was humbled by Him (1 Kings 21:27-29), Ahaziah not only ignored the LORD but instead opts to inquire of “Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron”.  This is the same as Beelzebub in Matthew 10:25, the “lord of the flies” – flies having a negative connotation akin to the curse in Exodus 8.  Ahaziah, rather than inquiring of the God in Israel, decides to inquire the god of the Philistines (v.3).  This pronouncement of the curse by the Angel of the LORD, Jesus, is early on in v.4 – a curse on the head and king of Israel by the prophet and man of God.  Like Ahab and Jezebel, so Ahaziah is the typical Adam, the cursed head.  Instead of enabling Israel to fulfill its calling as a priesthood to all nations (Exodus 19:6), it is now undistinguished to its neighbours.  He is not the true king of Israel – but is rather the self-proclaimed king of Samaria, far away from Moriah, the place of Christ’s redemptive work (c.f. Genesis 22).

 

Instead, the deliberate comparison is that this king of Israel is contrasted to the king of Judah, Jehoshaphat, who had insisted on inquiring of the LORD at the end of 1 Kings.  Here, instead, Ahaziah is insistent on inquiring of Baal-zebub: the irony that is Ahaziah living out the character of Moab.  Though in the ‘family’, born not out of holiness but out of sin.  Ahaziah is but a ‘legal’ Israelite, but bears not the Spirit of God in living as the true Israelite.  The lamp of Jerusalem, emphasizing on the lamp to David and his sons which remains with Judah.

 

5 The messengers returned to the king, and he said to them, “Why have you returned?”

6 And they said to him, “There came a man to meet us, and said to us, ‘Go back to the king who sent you, and say to him, Thus says the LORD, Is it because there is no God in Israel that you are sending to inquire of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron? Therefore you shall not come down from the bed to which you have gone up, but you shall surely die.’”

7 He said to them, “What kind of man was he who came to meet you and told you these things?”

8 They answered him, “He wore a garment of hair, with a belt of leather about his waist.” And he said, “It is Elijah the Tishbite.”

 

Here, Elijah the Baptist (c.f. Matthew 3:4) again is clearing the road for the true king.  Ahaziah, like Ahab, inquired of other gods.  Elijah’s role as prophet is to bring in the true king Jesus Christ (1 Samuel 2:10, 12:12) just as the judges and Samuel preceded the need for a Saul or David.  Here, there is a direct conflict between the ‘messengers of Baal-zebub’ (including the king Ahaziah, and his messengers and captains and their men) and the messenger of the LORD Elijah.

 

9 Then the king sent to him a captain of fifty men with his fifty. He went up to Elijah, who was sitting on the top of a hill, and said to him, “O man of God, the king says, ‘Come down.’”

10 But Elijah answered the captain of fifty, “If I am a man of God, let fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty.” Then fire came down from heaven and consumed him and his fifty.

11 Again the king sent to him another captain of fifty men with his fifty. And he answered and said to him, “O man of God, this is the king’s order, ‘Come down quickly!’”

12 But Elijah answered them, “If I am a man of God, let fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty.” Then the fire of God came down from heaven and consumed him and his fifty.

 

Note here the imagery – Elijah sits at the top of a hill, a biblical indication of heaven (Psalm 24:3, 44:3).  So we see Christ speaking through his messenger Elijah (as a type of Christ), to 2 sets of captains and their fifty men at the bottom of the hill.  This is a reminder of the time in the wilderness when the men were afraid to approach Mount Sinai and had to commission Moses to go.  There is nothing special about Moses – all the men, though ‘quarantined’ from breaking in to meet the Father, however were also invited into receiving the Father personally, rather than Moses himself (Exodus 20:18-21).

 

However, these captains and men did not seek to revere the LORD of Elijah.  In contrast, they asked Elijah to come down from the hill – mockingly using the title “man of God” whilst disbelieving the “God” of this man.  What they receive, instead of the warm embrace of the Father, is the wrath otherwise poured onto the Holy Son on their behalf.  This is but a foretelling of the events in Revelation – the ridicule of Christ leading to fiery destruction from the heavens (2 Peter 3:7-12).

 

Note the number fifty – the number of final deliverance (c.f. Jubilee – Leviticus 25) which concords with the imagery of Revelation and of Elijah on the top of the hill.  The first two sets (the two captains, and their respective fifty men – 102 men killed by the fire, two-thirds of the men sent by Ahaziah).  This is but a shadow of judgment in Christ’s ‘descension’, in the parousia – two thirds destroyed but one third spared, the ‘thirds’ being an important pattern of division in Scripture (Ezekiel 5:2-12; Revelation 8-9) – the man of God goes down the hill to be with the third captain.  This is because the man recognizes truly this ‘man of God’ is neither mere man nor an object of mockery.

 

 

13 Again the king sent the captain of a third fifty with his fifty. And the third captain of fifty went up and came and fell on his knees before Elijah and entreated him, “O man of God, please let my life, and the life of these fifty servants of yours, be precious in your sight.

14 Behold, fire came down from heaven and consumed the two former captains of fifty men with their fifties, but now let my life be precious in your sight.”

15 Then the angel of the LORD said to Elijah, “Go down with him; do not be afraid of him.” So he arose and went down with him to the king

16 and said to him, “Thus says the LORD, ‘Because you have sent messengers to inquire of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron—is it because there is no God in Israel to inquire of his word?—therefore you shall not come down from the bed to which you have gone up, but you shall surely die.’”

 

What is often omitted from 2 Kings 1 (v.15), let alone a portrayal of Elijah’s biography, is Elijah’s fear.  This creates a collective image of a prophet who has a tendency to fear man (1 Kings 19:3, 19:18).  Yet, Elijah’s weakness is supplanted by the LORD’s strength (2 Corinthians 12:9), a truly cruciform lifestyle (2 Corinthians 13:4) as he beheld the Angel of the LORD Who was with him at the top of the hill.

 

The captain and the third fifty were therefore spared – but the king died in fulfillment of Elijah’s word.  This scenario is again reflected in the New Testament (Matthew 8:5-13), the faithful centurion contrasted against the faithless master of the centurion (Matthew 23:11). In fact, the message had been clear since v.6-8.  The king could have gone out himself and pleaded with Elijah; instead, 102 men were murdered, and the only one spared in this chapter is the captain and his fifty humbled before Elijah, recognizing the LORD’s work in His prototypical judgment on the Day of Resurrection.  Though the king had the murderous intent (v.15 – do not be afraid of him), Elijah was the one who had the ‘last word’.

 

Although Ahaziah had no son, Jehoram his brother (and also son of Ahab and Jezebel) replaced him (v.17).  It is ironic that both kings’ name means “whom Jehovah has exalted”.  Neither the Jehoram of Judah (2 Chronicles 21-22) nor the Jehoram of Israel were fitting of this name.  This is therefore the way 2 Kings 1 opens – not by displaying the righteousness of men, but rather than the righteousness of the Angel of the LORD who brought judgment on all those against His anointed prophet.

 

17 So he died according to the word of the LORD that Elijah had spoken. Jehoram became king in his place in the second year of Jehoram the son of Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, because Ahaziah had no son.

18 Now the rest of the acts of Ahaziah that he did, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel?

 

II Kings 2:

1 Now when the LORD was about to take Elijah up to heaven by a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal.

2 And Elijah said to Elisha, “Please stay here, for the LORD has sent me as far as Bethel.” But Elisha said, “As the LORD lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So they went down to Bethel.

3 And the sons of the prophets who were in Bethel came out to Elisha and said to him, “Do you know that today the LORD will take away your master from over you?” And he said, “Yes, I know it; keep quiet.”

 

By way of how 2 Kings 1 ended, the narrator of 2 Kings 2 brings us back to the beginning – taking Elijah and Elisha through landmarks explored before the Israelites even entered Canaan.  From Gilgal to Bethel, Elijah and Elisha are brought to remember the reproach of Israel removed (Joshua 5:9), insodoing bringing the Israelites back to the house of God (Genesis 28, 35).  Like Enoch, the seventh in generation from Adam, Elijah is to be caught up into the Lord’s presence (Genesis 5:24); however, the method by whirlwind is unprecedented in the recording of the Word.  What is important is that the sons of the prophets’ knowledge of Elijah’s removal (and so reminded Elisha) is a foretelling of the Son of God ascending the ladder to third heaven (Genesis 28:12); the Son of God no longer ‘with’ His disciples, so also Elijah no longer with Elisha – the type of Christ and the type of the Church.  The giving of the Spirit resting on Elijah to Elisha, so also the giving of the Spirit resting on Christ (Isaiah 11:2), given to all flesh (Joel 2:28).

 

4 Elijah said to him, “Elisha, please stay here, for the LORD has sent me to Jericho.” But he said, “As the LORD lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So they came to Jericho.

5 The sons of the prophets who were at Jericho drew near to Elisha and said to him, “Do you know that today the LORD will take away your master from over you?” And he answered, “Yes, I know it; keep quiet.”

 

So while the sons of the prophets remind Elisha of the anointed prophet’s ascension, we are brought to recollect that Jericho should not even exist – should not even be rebuilt (Joshua 6:26).  Yet, here it stands, as a result of Israel’s rebellion.  Not once, but thrice (after going to Gilgal and Bethel) are we to remember that the LORD has been faithful, but we have not.

 

6 Then Elijah said to him, “Please stay here, for the LORD has sent me to the Jordan.” But he said, “As the LORD lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So the two of them went on.

7 Fifty men of the sons of the prophets also went and stood at some distance from them, as they both were standing by the Jordan.

8 Then Elijah took his cloak and rolled it up and struck the water, and the water was parted to the one side and to the other, till the two of them could go over on dry ground.

 

From Bethel to Jericho to Jordan (Joshua 3-5), it looks like the Lord is walking Elijah in reverse through the history of Israel.  Rather, this is a walk through the restoration of the ancient borderless gospel.  The way out of Canaan through the Jordan, starting from the House of God.  In doing so, Elijah the Baptist is preparing the way of Christ (Isaiah 54:2), expanding the House of God beyond the Jordan!  Elijah is thus a walking example of Hebrew 13:13, walking through judgment (instead of entering judgment by the first entrance into Israel as under Joshua 3-5, it is symbolic of a removal of judgment in leaving Israel).  So in Elijah’s ascension, we see Christ’s ascension in His incarnate body, taking Israel with Him to the right hand of the Father’s throne.

 

9 When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Ask what I shall do for you, before I am taken from you.” And Elisha said, “Please let there be a double portion of your spirit on me.”

10 And he said, “You have asked a hard thing; yet, if you see me as I am being taken from you, it shall be so for you, but if you do not see me, it shall not be so.”

11 And as they still went on and talked, behold, chariots of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.

12 And Elisha saw it and he cried, “My father, my father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!” And he saw him no more. Then he took hold of his own clothes and tore them in two pieces.

 

This is a grand picture, a reality of inheriting double portion of the Spirit on Elijah is that Elisha may receive divine sight of the chariots of Israel and it’s horsemen (2 Kings 6:17; also reminiscent of the picture of judgment in Isaiah 66).

 

13 And he took up the cloak of Elijah that had fallen from him and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan.

14 Then he took the cloak of Elijah that had fallen from him and struck the water, saying, “Where is the LORD, the God of Elijah?” And when he had struck the water, the water was parted to the one side and to the other, and Elisha went over.

 

When Elisha returns to Israel, he is the same Spirit-filled Elisha from before Elijah ascended into third heaven.  Rather, the distinction serves as a foretelling of the distinction before and after Christ’s ascension (c.f. Acts 2) – the distinction that Christ has been glorified (John 7:39) and the Spirit has now been imparted in a grander measure to all flesh.  Thus Elisha’s taking up of the cloak of Elijah is a picture of His garments of righteousness, his cloak of zeal, covering us (Isaiah 59:17, 61:10) – but also intimately a call back to 1 Kings 19:19-21 when Elijah chose Elisha as his disciple.  This cloak is not of any inherent supernatural quality – rather, it is a picture of the righteousness given to Elijah, the same righteousness and power of the Spirit passing through to Elisha his disciple.

 

V.14 is a direct prophecy of Christ’s same words on the cross – lema lema sabachthani – “Why has the LORD forsaken me?” – “Where is the LORD?”  The parting of the waters is a reminder of the parting of the waters in the exodus of Israel and in day two of creation, both pointing towards the stretching of the Son’s life on the cross.  His appeal is therefore not to Elijah as if he was some deity-saint through whom we reach Mary, through whom we reach Jesus, through whom we reach the Father; rather, Elisha appeals directly to the LORD who had clearly caused Elijah’s ascension:

 

“He applied to Elijah’s God: Where is the Lord God of Elijah? He does not ask, “Where is Elijah?” as poring upon the loss of him, as if he could not be easy now that he was gone,–or as doubting of his happy state, as if, like the sons of the prophets here, he knew not what had become of him,–or as curiously enquiring concerning him, and the particular of that state he was removed to (no, that is a hidden life, it does not yet appear what we shall be),–nor as expecting help from him; no, Elijah is happy, but is neither omniscient nor omnipotent; but he asks, Where is the Lord God of Elijah? Now that Elijah was taken to heaven God had abundantly proved himself the God of Elijah; if he had not prepared for him that city, and done better for him there than ever he did for him in this world, he would have been ashamed to be called his God, Heb. xi. 16; Matt. xxvii. 31, 32. Now that Elijah was taken to heaven Elisha enquired, [1.] After God. When our creature-comforts are removed, we have a God to go to, that lives for ever. [2.] After The God of Elijah, the God that Elijah served, and honoured, and pleaded for, and adhered to when all Israel had deserted him. This honour is done to those who cleave to God in times of general apostasy, that God will be, in a peculiar manner, their God. “The God that owned, and protected, and provided for Elijah, and many ways honoured him, especially now at last, where is he? Lord, am not I promised Elijah’s spirit? Make good that promise.” The words which next follow in the original, Aph-his–even he, which we join to the following clause, when he also had smitten the waters, some make an answer to this question, Where is Elijah’s God? Etiam ille adhuc superest–“He is in being still, and nigh at hand. We have lost Elijah, but we have not lost Elijah’s God. He has not forsaken the earth; it is even he that is still with me.” Note, First, It is the duty and interest of the saints on earth to enquire after God, and apply to him as the Lord God of the saints that have gone before to heaven, the God of our fathers. Secondly, It is very comfortable to those who enquire of him; it is even he that is in his holy temple (Ps. xi. 4) and nigh to all who call upon him, Ps. cxlv. 18. Thirdly, Those that walk in the spirit and steps of their godly faithful predecessors shall certainly experience the same grace that they experienced; Elijah’s God will be Elisha’s too. The Lord God of the holy prophets is the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever; and what will it avail us to have the mantles of those that are gone, their places, their books, if we have not their spirit, their God?” – Matthew Henry

 

15 Now when the sons of the prophets who were at Jericho saw him opposite them, they said, “The spirit of Elijah rests on Elisha.” And they came to meet him and bowed to the ground before him.

16 And they said to him, “Behold now, there are with your servants fifty strong men. Please let them go and seek your master. It may be that the Spirit of the LORD has caught him up and cast him upon some mountain or into some valley.” And he said, “You shall not send.”

17 But when they urged him till he was ashamed, he said, “Send.” They sent therefore fifty men. And for three days they sought him but did not find him.

18 And they came back to him while he was staying at Jericho, and he said to them, “Did I not say to you, ‘Do not go’?”

 

Elisha, knowing full well that the whirlwind is the same Spirit of the LORD (as is understood by the sons of the prophets in v.16), is ashamed that the sons of the prophets fail to see the significance of Elijah’s departure (v.16-17).  What is the purpose in locating the ascended typological Son of God when even the sons of the prophets utter that the Spirit of Elijah rests on Elisha (v.15; c.f. Acts 1:11)?  Of course they would not find Elijah in the mountains, however plausible the Spirit’s work may be in teleportation (Acts 8:39-40).  This is because Elisha knew the event to foretell Christ’s ascension, and so also that Christ will return by way of the Spirit from the heavens.  Elisha’s shame is therefore tied fundamentally into the prophets’ failure to perceive the prophecy of the entire event, a mirror showing that these fifty men sent by sons of prophets has no clearer vision of the ascended Christ than the groups of fifty men sent by the false king.

 

19 Now the men of the city said to Elisha, “Behold, the situation of this city is pleasant, as my lord sees, but the water is bad, and the land is unfruitful.”

20 He said, “Bring me a new bowl, and put salt in it.” So they brought it to him.

21 Then he went to the spring of water and threw salt in it and said, “Thus says the LORD, I have healed this water; from now on neither death nor miscarriage shall come from it.”

22 So the water has been healed to this day, according to the word that Elisha spoke.

 

One of the first acts which Elisha performs is, too prophetic – the healing of the bad water to bring in fresh water, the living waters of salvation.  This salt is implicative of the salt covenant with God laid down in Leviticus 2:13 and Numbers 18:19, yet salt inherently is associated with judgment and death (Genesis 19:26; James 3:12) and purification (Exodus 30:35) though it be a seasoning leading to new life (Ezekiel 47:8-12).  What Elisha preaches is therefore the gospel of the new bowl of fresh water, the new wine in new wineskins, the fulfillment of the law in Christ’s completion of his work on the cross.  No longer shall Israel be under the judgment of legal salt covenant, under the judgment of salty rain-water, but look forward to the fulfillment of the legal salt covenant in the Son who received the judgment of rain leading us to a new creation age of fresh water lakes with life-bearing fruit (Revelation 22:2).

 

23 He went up from there to Bethel, and while he was going up on the way, some small boys came out of the city and jeered at him, saying, “Go up, you baldhead! Go up, you baldhead!”

24 And he turned around, and when he saw them, he cursed them in the name of the LORD. And two she-bears came out of the woods and tore forty-two of the boys.

25 From there he went on to Mount Carmel, and from there he returned to Samaria.

 

Here is a repeat of a similar event (1 Samuel 25), like Nabal against David.  Without knowing who he is, these small boys curse Elisha as the bald one – a negative connotation (Ezekiel 27:31; Isaiah 3:24; Lamentations 7:29).  So Elisha curses these children in return, in the name of the LORD, pronouncing the judgment the forty-two boys deserve (c.f. Genesis 12:3; John 20:23; compared with 2 Kings 10:14) in the House of God (Bethel).  From Bethel, he goes to Mount Carmel – the place of the destruction of Baal’s prophets, the name of the mount symbolically meaning circumcised lamb, a fruitful place; then he returns to Samaria, the watch-mountain and worship place of Baal  (1 Kings 16:32), reminding us that the watcher (Daniel 4) is protecting and guiding the Church in a world of idolatry, awaiting the day that all may behold the Christ, the God of Elijah and Elisha.

2 Kings 1-2: Christ and His disciple